A Muslim’s open letter to Bill Maher
Dear Bill (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Bill because it’s the nicest word I can use to describe you at this point),
We get it. You are an aggressive atheist, you abhor religions. For you, it is fashionable to be controversial. Being edgy is part of your job description. Congratulations, you are now so edgy that Bill O’Reilly of Fox News agrees with your views. ‘Bill the Liberal’ and ‘Bill the Conservative’ have now found common ground – Islamophobic bigotry.
Let me ask you, Bill, are you back-paddling out of the muddy creek you created on your HBO show, Real Time with Bill Maher, last weekend with your recent remarks:
“We’re liberals! We’re liberals? We’re not crazy tea-baggers, you know.”
Your definition of a liberal, and the responsibility of being one, is as ludicrous as ISIS’s distorted execution of Islam. You said,
“Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles… these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for [pointing to his audience], but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.”
When did principles “like freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion…” become principles defended only by liberals? Your guest on the show, Sam Harris, added,
“Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy…”
Theocracy failed by liberals? Pandering much? These “principles” that you throw around are US constitutional rights championed by all liberals, non-liberals and anyone in between. Why must a liberal have a duty to “criticise” bad ideas where, according to Harris,
“Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”
Feel free to stereotype almost 1.6 billion people worldwide because this is your God-given liberal duty? Really?
Since you have been pushing the envelope of bigotry, increasingly so in the past few years, I am glad Ben Affleck called you on it, if only to open a door for fair discussion. Go ahead and instigate debate on the general uselessness of religions. You may think Muslims can’t take a joke or two. ‘We’ can. What upsets ‘them’ is the persistent spin of Islamic views and utter lack of knowledge of the diverse 1.6 billion people so conveniently generalised and stereotyped.
Bill, can I ask you a simple question: what does the ‘Muslim world’ look like to you? What is the colour, race, age, or gender of the 1.6 billion people you casually label as “they”? Can’t answer this question? Don’t worry; there is no easy answer because we are not as homogeneous as you would make everyone believe “us” to be.
It seems that sometimes you are so in love with your own views that you argue to spread bigotry and not to understand the multitudes of varied Muslims who universally champion human rights and all the “liberal principles” you mentioned. What would you accomplish by asking liberals to criticise 1.6 billion people? Present the caricature of Islam and Muslims as one homogeneous evil and intolerant group of 1.6 billion people? Stop propagating hate by equating a small subset of the 1.6 billion people to the whole of the 1.6 billion people. This concept is not rocket science, but let me simplify it even further. Would you say: all the creatures of the sea are sharks? No, you wouldn’t because it is false and presents an incomplete picture of all the creatures of the sea. You are being immensely unintelligent when you lump together what you perceive to be “us”. I suggest you do your research, use your writers to provide credible, fair and historically correct information.
Now, Bill, you said,
“The only religion that acts like the mafia, that will %^&$*$@ kill you if you say the wrong thing.”
Do you even realise how unintellectual this statement is? A religion in itself can’t act like a mafia, only individual elements can. And no, I will not “%^&$*$@ kill you”, as you hypothesised, because I think you said a “wrong thing”. But I will not laugh either because Islamophobic bigotry is not funny. Let’s address the white elephant in the room you so enjoy beating it to death. Yes, Muslims face an array of issues based on their region of residence and geo-economical factors. Yes, a radical element has taken a very sadistic turn, and unfortunately shaped up to be the ISIS or the Taliban or the numerous other fundamental groups and regimes, but the majority of Muslims also abhor and stand up against these.
Thank you for highlighting the ad nauseum of the horrors of the ‘Muslim world’ but, for the sake of variety, let’s also talk about the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims who are peaceful and tolerant. For example, talk about the fact that five out of the last twelve Nobel Prize winners have been Muslims, out of which three were Muslim women. Focus on these Nobel Prize winners who do not represent the horrendous minority segment you love to highlight to spread Islamophobic bigotry.
Can you please stop making each and every Muslim accountable for the actions of the small unrepresentative minority? Stop stereotyping and stop spinning what a Muslim may or may not believe. Understand, for example, I, as a female Muslim, have not been brainwashed and I definitely don’t need to be rescued by a ‘liberal’ like yourself. And please, do not act like I don’t exist. Muslim women exist and excel in many shapes and forms all over the world. We do have grievances and issues just as women of any faith or set of beliefs do, in any part of the world. But the issues we face are as diverse as the colours we are. In veils, in scarves or in skirts (depending on which premium cable and satellite television you follow) we have arrived. And we are here to stay. So might as well acknowledge and embrace our diversity.
In closing Bill, I request you to invite scholars to engage in a calm conversation about Islam to present real and representative views from all sides, and most importantly without the predisposed Islamophobic bigotry.
What do you say, Bill?
This post originally appeared here.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.